Starting the process, dancing with maintenance

The room of our mind decorates itself with doubt. Anxiety is a thinking problem, a challenge to contain the inner narrative that bears the footprints of our decisions. 

Extreme self-belief and passion offer the antidotes to quitting. Immersed from the start, we dance with persistence when times get difficult. 

Evolution is an imaginative process. As we gain exposure to the world, it becomes our oyster for exploration and experimentation. 

Each creator finds their own problems and lets their identity roll. We build and sustain a system of habits to avoid wandering about in the fog. We do, however, remain changeable as we mine for secrets of the interior self. 

But it’s not just the drive to begin. Finishing matters most. The world is a better place for those that ship projects out the door. Artists need feedback. “Another flaw in human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance,” once said Kurt Vonnegut.

So which is more difficult — the start or the maintenance? Both are equally important as an emphasis of action

Known and strange things

Exploration augments the senses. Within the pursuit of strangeness lies one important truth: we prefer the unknown.  

Can you imagine if the world stopped innovating, where everyone just decided that they’d seen it all! Yet even history compels us to repeat new mistakes

Discovery pushes us forward slowly. There’s a limit to all the novel information we can consume. We need time to process the research.  

If we stay with problems long enough, letting them simmer in the subconscious, the conclusions tend to draw themselves. All the while, expect years to go by misunderstood. 

Human memory connects the dots over time as lucidity restores a type of balance. The others finally catch up to our train of thought.

Chasing down both known and strange things was a calling all along.

A vocation of old and new

Everyone harbors an undeniable vocation that starts when we’re kids.

Playing in the NBA, winning a Grammy or an Oscar — most aspirations are pipe dreams. But the characteristics we build in pursuing those far-fetched fantasies such as confidence, persistence, result from facing all the anxieties and fears that arise from such honest confrontation.

When we feel incompetent, we channel grit elsewhere toward something that feels more intuitive and enjoyable. Like a magnet, we’re drawn to what comes naturally.

A writer who draws. A bicyclist who runs and swims. A photographer who rock climbs. The former is who we are and what the market demands, even if the latter is what we prefer. Neither trade guarantees success nor fame because all reward is in the doing.

While sometimes feeling detached, the intuitive self invites us to travel down the road of uncertainty until we find an occupation that feels just about right — where ambition and talent intersect, where passion overlaps with our skills.

There is beauty in constraint, what bounds focuses the mind.

Until we can identify our strengths, we jump from lily-pad to lily-pad like frogs. We ultimately return to the one that feels like home.

Having the courage to follow who we are rather than live up to somebody else’s expectations is a blessing, not a glitch.

Doing it our own way

To do it our own way, for you, regardless of external interpretation and expectation.

Individuality is all we have. Character is destiny.

Sure, it’s in our DNA as social human beings to want to receive feedback on our creative outpourings. But making is therapeutic in itself.

Output is the manifestation of input. What we cultivate is a reflection of our inner narrative. And yes, a lot of it is trash, because most creative pursuits are temporary.

As they say, a good idea is an accumulation of a lot of bad ones. We aim for simplification as the most durable storage.

Being all things to all men is a foolish endeavor. We no longer chase other people’s dreams, nor our own. By running after our ideal selves, we run foul of authenticity.

We simply ride the wave of chance hurled at us, adrift on the storm-tossing sea of luck. We dance with all the uncertainties and anxieties in our work, following through even on the most unrewarding tasks.

Real makers talk as themselves, not about themselves. What matters is the creator’s point of view.

Devoid of context — it’s the viewer’s challenge to try and sense where the artist is coming from.

Complexity is the by-product of uniqueness, as people make out only what they know how to see.

Reborn ideas

Life arises out of nonlife, developing as a consequence of the random workings of nature. 

Similarly, creativity arises out of noncreativity. Concepts are non-existent without chance execution. All ideas are dead ideas until further movement. 

Yet, it is procrastination that brings some of our best work to the forefront. Clarity emerges during idle times — thoughts coalesce in the shower, taking a walk, playing with the kids. 

Focusing on something entirely different helps break down the blindness caused by closeupness. Eureka moments are therefore myth; instead, we toil and stumble toward realization. 

The shadow that lies between focus and disconnection compels our actions.

Layer by layer, we keep stacking resources and exploring ways to curl the mind, and then we take periods of rest to examine the forest for the trees. 

The boss of time

Time is more important than money, yet time is money. So the clock (exported by the East India Company) emerged as a system for streamlining global trade. 

He who obeys the hour, minute, and second is a slave of time. Nature moves toward continuous variation regardless of tick-tocks, adhering to the sun, water, seasons, and the moon — the mother of all things. 

For humans, the standardization of time enforces discipline. 

Alarm clocks, closing bells, factory openings, Black Friday: there is no escaping the tyranny of the clock for the economic initiative. 

It takes time to make time. Yet, time reminds us that we don’t have forever. 

So we stay engaged and do the work now, knowing that tomorrow may not come.  

It’s time to create something worthwhile. It’s time to face the resistance and make a difference.   

Time may be boss, but we’re the boss of time. And we mean the business of living. 

Creativity is a game of inches

It comes as no surprise that lousy work begets good work — the more one creates, the more they have to play with. 

People mistakenly believe that successful artists excelled all along. In reality, what the viewer sees are remarkable stories told by people who decided never to give up

The internet is a great liberator because it allows anyone can show their work. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee anyone’s going to see it. 

It’s nearly impossible to stand out when everyone’s an Instagram photographer. The world’s drowning in jpegs that all look alike, punctuated by countless candy-colored apps begging for attention. 

It’s no surprise that artists do their best work while toiling in obscurity. They may emulate conventions at first, but starved of significance, the creator begs to be different. 

It takes a lot of time and a ton of practice to develop both good taste and a unique craft. 

When we create for ourselves, rage into our work, the world becomes our oyster. “It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found,” once said English pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott. 

From stylization to originality, cultivating talent unfolds slowly into a game of inches. The only guarantee is the willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough.

Head to head

Two people live inside our heads, one left-brained and analytical and the other right-brained and more free-flowing and creative. Together, the two opposing cognitive forces work in harmony.

There’s also a part of the brain that spaces out and permits the subconscious to connect the dots. The mind works like a dishwasher amidst sleep and daydreaming, cleaning out toxins during times of rest. 

The mind’s left-right dichotomy provides a double-helping of self-narration. Certitude leads to extremes that preclude the emergence of infinite variety. Multiplicity makes one dizzy, a toss of abstractions.  

The quest for fact and the art of spontaneity is a tussle between who we are and where we want to go. Cognitively busy, all we can do is listen to ourselves and deploy the headwork that’s needed most.

Less is best

We achieve breakthroughs because of restraints, not because of endless options.

There’s a reason we feel satisfied when someone removes the cashews at a party; it eliminates the temptation to snack on them.

Our willpower is generally weak. And a surfeit of choice further aggravates self-control problems. Even worse, we transmit vices to others.

When we have a limited offer or altogether remove what we can use, eat, etc., we’re more cautious in our entire approach.

Constriction is a life-enhancing passport to better decision making, a challenge of a challenge that forces us to cope with what we already have.

Less is best, and more. Everything else appears as a nice-to-have pleasant surprise.

The critics

The critics try to impinge as much as possible on the artist. It is their job to find weaknesses and room for improvement. 

The irony, of course, is that they couldn’t repeat the artist’s work. Critics are inadequate makers, no matter how masterful they are in their feedback. Said French-American painter, sculptor, and writer Marcel Duchamp, “Not everyone is an artist but everyone is a fucking critic.”

“Not everyone is an artist but everyone is a fucking critic.”

Marcel Duchamp

From the artist’s perspective, criticism is at least more actionable than a handful of compliments. Creators learn from negative feedback: what to ignore, what to tailor, and how to approach the next project, even it’s to double-down on their existing craft. 

The artist does it for themselves. They create what they want to see in the world regardless of humiliation and fear. What matters isn’t always the most popular

It’s not the artist’s responsibility to predetermine interpretation. The brain makes inferences whether it likes to or not. The maker makes — work so straightforward it echoes like an answer through a marble hall. If the craft becomes the lightning rod for criticism, so be it. 

The viewer or the critic, for that matter, should judge without prejudging one’s possibilities. However, they’re still permitted to scan with remarkable precision. And the artist goes unshadowed by their threat. 

Where comparison fails

We discover our uniqueness through failed conformity. We’re not here to follow and jump through hoops. We endeavor to bend standard practices in strange and wonderful directions.

Thinking different is the ultimate motivator. It carves us into individuals. 

We are who we are — purple cows instead of mindless little robots — and do not accept anything that does not feel authentic. 

“Originality consists of trying to be like everybody else and failing.”

Raymond Radiguet (view books)

When we wield the paintbrush, our imaginative grip never dies. We can invent systems that free us from the tyranny of sameness.

Yet, no matter how individually wrought, we sell our stems to the world for others to imitate and recast as we did to works before us. 

The hope is that our craft encourages others to chase their own fancy version of creativity. The lemmings, forever unoriginal, suffer for nothing.

Throwing a rock into a hard place

Stuck between the intention and the act, we often fail to carry out what we’re meant to do. 

Motivation is fickle. Distractions are plentiful. Doing is not a matter of talent but discipline. Every repetition is a bicep curl for the brain. 

Wrote William James in The Principles of Psychology: “This very day I have been repeating over and over to myself a verbal jingle whose mawkish silliness was the secret of its haunting power. I loathed yet could not banish it. What holds attention determines action.”

What holds attention predetermines action and protects us against the pitfalls of the next shiny object or stirred emotion. 

Focus is our only guard, without all the narrowness of attention. We need to keep our eyes on the donut over the donut hole. 

So we keep going, showing up despite there being no guarantee of happiness at the end of the tunnel. 

Greater use of the palette insulates the individual from the dizziness of anxiety and the needless aim for the pedestal of fame.  

A creative flow hardens the brain’s sticktoitiveness and summons a type of artistic unity. 

We throw the rock into the hard place. The daily practice is our only durable storage.